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Linking national immigration data to provincial repositories: the case of Canada

Urquia ML, Walld R, Wanigaratne S, Eze N, Azimaee M, McDonald JT, Guttmann A. Int J Popul Data Sci. 2021; 6(1):1412. Epub 2021 May 25. DOI: https://doi.org/10.23889/ijpds.v6i1.1412


Background — Canadian health data repositories link datasets at the provincial level, based on their residents' registrations to provincial health insurance plans. Linking national datasets with provincial health care registries poses several challenges that may result in misclassification and impact the estimation of linkage rates. A recent linkage of a federal immigration database in the province of Manitoba illustrates these challenges.

Objectives — a) To describe the linkage of the federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Permanent Resident (IRCC-PR) database with the Manitoba healthcare registry and b) compare data linkage methods and rates between four Canadian provinces accounting for interprovincial mobility of immigrants.

Methods We compared linkage rates by immigrant's province of intended destination (province vs. rest of Canada). We used external nationwide immigrant tax filing records to approximate actual settlement and obtain linkage rates corrected for interprovincial mobility.

Results — The immigrant linkage rates in Manitoba before and after accounting for interprovincial mobility were 84.8% and 96.1, respectively. Linkage rates did not substantially differ according to immigrants' characteristics, with a few exceptions. Observed linkage rates across the four provinces ranged from 74.0% to 86.7%. After correction for interprovincial mobility, the estimated linkage rates increased > 10 percentage points for the provinces that stratified by intended destination (British Columbia and Manitoba) and decreased up to 18 percentage points for provinces that could not use immigration records of those who did not intend to settle in the province (New Brunswick and Ontario).

Conclusions — Despite variations in methodology, provincial linkage rates were relatively high. The use of a national immigration dataset for linkage to provincial repositories allows a more comprehensive linkage than that of province-specific subsets. Observed linkage rates can be biased downwards by interprovincial migration, and methods that use external data sources can contribute to assessing potential selection bias and misclassification.

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